Getting Treatment for a Dual Diagnosis

Addicts who seek treatment for substance abuse also have psychological and emotional issues to address. If these issues are ignored, the chance of sobriety being maintained is minimal.

The situation is even more complicated if the addict’s mental problems match the profile for clinical depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, PTSD or some other type of true mental health disorder.

In these circumstances, the addict or alcoholic in question will be given a dual diagnosis that acknowledges the existence of two separate conditions. Approximately half of all people with mental health disorders also suffer from a substance abuse problem, so this is not an uncommon relationship.

When mental illness and substance abuse manifest together, they are referred to as co-occurring conditions, and only after medical professionals have established the presence of both are they able to make a dual diagnosis.

In a Dual Diagnosis, Everything Is the Priority

Before you or your loved one are admitted to an addiction rehabilitation center, you will be thoroughly evaluated by trained medical professionals with expertise in addiction treatment. The evaluation will include screening for substance abuse and mental health disorders. If both are found, you will be given a treatment plan that fully acknowledges the state of your health and offers services designed to help you manage or overcome each of your medical conditions.

When a dual diagnosis has been made, the best addiction treatment centers and the addiction specialists who staff them are unanimous about one thing: all conditions must be treated simultaneously and neither the substance abuse disorder nor the mental health disorder(s) should be given priority.

There is one exception to this rule. If your drug or alcohol abuse is out of control and putting your survival or long-term health at risk, you will have to undergo medical detox first, before any mental health-related services are provided.

Methods and Approaches

There is significant overlap between the way substance abuse disorders and mood, anxiety or personality disorders are treated. In every instance, talk therapy is at the core of the treatment regimen, and this similarity makes it possible for counselors to customize sessions that deal with substance abuse and mental health troubles concurrently.

Mental illness is associated with troubled life histories, shocking traumatic events, past abuse, family difficulties and genetics. Not coincidentally, all of these causes of mental health disorders are just as strongly associated with substance abuse.

When probing the relationship between substance abuse and mental health issues, cause and effect will be discussed. However, regardless of which came first, each reinforces the other and both must be addressed with equal focus and vigor.

Your therapists will go as far in-depth as is necessary to get to the root of your suffering. While neither the substance abuse disorder nor the mental health disorder will be given more importance in treatment, depending on your personal circumstances one may be emphasized over the other at certain times during your stay in rehab.

Specific treatments offered for dual diagnosis/co-occurring conditions include:

  • Personalized individual therapy
  • Group therapy
  • Ongoing medical/health support (possibly including medications for depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety disorder, etc.)
  • Trauma-informed care sessions (modified versions of normal therapy sessions for those who have undergone severe and/or recent trauma)
  • Relapse prevention therapy, or RPT (dealing with all possible triggers, including the temptation to self-medicate when negative mental health symptoms are experienced)
  • Educational programs about mental health, substance abuse and stress management
  • Continuing care, with outpatient services provided as needed and/or requested following the end of inpatient rehabilitation

The three categories of mental illness most frequently associated with a dual diagnosis are mood disorders (primarily depression but also bipolar disorder), anxiety disorders (PTSD, OCD, panic disorder, social anxiety disorder and generalized anxiety disorder) and personality disorders (schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder and antisocial personality disorder).

Of course, treatment methodologies will vary to some degree based on what type of mental health disorder has been diagnosed.

A Dual Diagnosis Means Double the Healing 

At every stage of dual diagnosis treatment, you or your loved one will be carefully monitored to ensure evidence-based services are being delivered in satisfactory amounts and with the appropriate focus. Addiction-treatment care plans are always personalized, and this is even more vital when a co-occurring condition is present to complicate the picture.

Several of the addiction treatment centers we work with have extensive experience treating co-occurring conditions. They offer highly-effective programs specifically tailored to meet the needs of those with a dual diagnosis.

If you or someone you care about is struggling with substance abuse and/or mental health issues, please call us and we will put you in contact with experts who care and can help.

Time is of the essence, so please act today.